PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—Feeling a growing support from Southeast Asian countries in its fight against Russia, Ukrainian’s top diplomat has said his country’s war with Russia will only end “when Ukraine wins.”
In an exclusive interview with Manila Bulletin, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine was not giving itself a deadline on when its military confrontation with Russia will end because the government will fight until they “prevail” and “expel the invaders.”
“We will fight until we liberate our country from the aggressor who invaded us and who killed, who committed atrocities against our people,” Kuleba said in a sit down interview after a series of meetings with foreign counterparts at the sidelines of the 40th and 41st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summits and Related Summits here.
After liberating some territories of Ukraine that Russia previously occupied, Kuleba said they found three things: destroyed houses and civilian infrastructure, torture rooms and mass graves with civilians tied behind their backs
“So, this just speaks for the atrocious nature of the Russian behavior in Ukraine. But we will cope with it and we will regain our territories and we will win,” he added.
The foreign minister flew to the Cambodian capital to sign, among other tasks, the Instrument of Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC)—a peace treaty that seeks mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all nations.
The signing happened on Nov. 12. But video remarks from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy regarding the event were not allowed.
Still, Kuleba believed that the consensus reached by the 10-member bloc to let Ukraine accede to the treaty only showed an “open message of support from ASEAN countries to Ukraine” in its war with Russia.
“It became possible because all ASEAN members supported this decision by consensus… It means that ASEAN is looking for the ways how to support Ukraine under these circumstances,” he said.
Seeking strengthened relations with the regional bloc, Kuleba believed ASEAN could help Ukraine in the settlement of conflict “in the provision of humanitarian aid or the voting of your countries in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) or making political statements.”
The foreign minister is counting on the Philippines, with which Ukraine is planning to boost diplomatic relations, in the settlement of the conflict by “securing” its support for Ukraine during voting in the UNGA and other bodies.
“It is also important to have [the] Philippines too as a friend to communicate political messages here in Asia because [the] Philippines is an important regional player,” Kuleba said.
Despite calls from Ukraine to isolate Russia following its aggression on Ukraine, ASEAN did not do so. The regional bloc maintained that it was distinct from others in a sense that it continues to provide a platform for discussions for warring parties.
That reasoning did not “make sense” for Kuleba, who questioned why would a country or a regional bloc want to maintain “good friendly relations with a country that disrespects borders and commits atrocities.”
Kuleba believed ASEAN members understand that Russia “attacked” the UN Charter, the territorial integrity and the international law. So he warned that letting pass the Russian behavior will only “inspire other countries around the world to solve territorial issues by force and to withdraw borders by force.”
“I’m 100 percent confident that [the] Philippines [is] not interested in this scenario,” Kuleba said.
The foreign minister concluded that the future of the world order is now being decided on the battlefield in his country.
“And it is in the best interest of the all peace-loving nations in the world to support Ukraine under these circumstances and help us win because when we win, the respect for international law and sovereignty, territorial integrity of all countries around the world, including in Asia, will be respected again,” he said.